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February 25, 2024 5:01 pm

‘All parties welcome to join our protest’: Top wrestlers demand action against WFI chief Brij Bhushan

New Delhi, April 24

As top wrestlers resumed their sit-in at Jantar Mantar here demanding the arrest of Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, Olympic medalist Bajrang Punia on Monday said that this time “all parties are welcome” to join them and they won’t back down till action is taken against the BJP MP.

This January, the wrestlers, including Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat, Ravi Dahiya and Sakshi Malik among others, had called off their protest at Jantar Mantar after being assured that a committee would probe allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct against the WFI chief.

The star wrestlers said that they had filed a complaint at the Connaught Place police station on Friday (April 21) stating that seven female wrestlers, including one minor, were harassed and exploited by Brij Bhushan in his capacity as WFI chief.

“It’s been more than 48 hours since the complaint was made, but an FIR has not been filed yet,” Punia told ANI.

The ace wrestler said that this time they will not turn down anyone, and whoever wants to support their protest could come and join them.

“…This time, all parties are welcome to join our protest whether it is BJP, Congress, AAP or any other party…..we’re not affiliated with any party…,” he said.

Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) has issued a notice to the Delhi Police to register an FIR on the issue. Wrestler Vinesh Phogat also shared a photograph on her social media that indicated that the wrestlers had spent the night on the footpath. “Podium se footpath tak,” tweeted Phogat.

During their protest in January, senior Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Brinda Karat who had arrived to express her solidarity and join the protest of wrestlers was asked to leave the stage as protestors said they did not want to politicise the issue.

After holding talks with Union Sports Minister Anurag Thakur, the wrestlers were persuaded to call off their protest in January. The Sports Ministry formed a five-member committee headed by Olympic medallist boxer MC Mary Kom to probe the complaints of the wrestlers.

However, ace wrestler Sakshi Malik alleged that even after multiple assurances, not a single demand was fulfilled by the committee.

“A committee was formed 2-and-a-half months ago, and we were given multiple assurances. We waited for months for the report and not a single demand was fulfilled. Seven girls have a sexual harassment case against Brij Bhushan, still no action has been taken,” said Sakshi Malik.

She asserted that this time they would not deny any support from any political party.

“It was our mistake that last time when people wanted to support us we did not let them, we will not repeat the same mistake. This time everyone is welcome, any party can come and support us,” she said.

On Sunday, wrestler Vinesh Phogat broke down and asserted that the wrestling community will continue their protest “till we don’t get justice”.

“We will sit here day and night. Till the time we don’t get justice. We will sit here,” Vinesh Phogat said, breaking down while speaking to media persons.

“It is about our safety and if we international medal-winning female wrestlers are not safe, then who is safe? We are from a wrestling family and we are trying to save it till our last breath,” Vinesh said.

When asked about the working of the committee, Vinesh said that she is unaware of the working of the committee. “We don’t know what the committee is doing. We are asking for justice and we came in front of the entire public to ask for justice and here we are again.”

On DCW’s notice to the Delhi Police for reportedly failing to register an FIR in the sexual harassment case of women wrestlers, Vinesh said, “It’s been three months, and we haven’t got justice. That’s why we are protesting again. We demand justice. An FIR has not been registered yet. We are grateful that DCW is supporting us.”

Top Indian wrestlers, including Bajrang Punia, Vinesh Phogat, Ravi Dahiya, and Sakshi Malik, held a sit-in protest in Jantar Mantar in January this year, demanding that Brij Bhushan be removed from the head office and the Wrestling Federation of India be disbanded.

They had accused the WFI body and its chief of sexual harassment and mistreatment of wrestlers.

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